Sorry Doesn’t Spoil

A couple years ago I was the recipient of an unexpected phone call. I was completely unprepared for it, for a couple of reasons. One, I’d all but forgotten the person calling existed. Two, the Hubster was out of town, the kids were in bed, and I was in the middle of a first-draft stupor (which means most of my psyche was busy frolicking in ImaginaryLand). It was actually a small miracle that I answered the phone at all, because when I’m rolling in the deep like that (I dare you not to hear Adele in your head – ha!), I usually only stop when the dog is doing her If You Don’t Let Me Outside This Second I’m Gonna Drop A Twosie On The Rug dance, or if one of the kids is bleeding in a way that a Sponge Bob bandaid won’t suffice.

Point here is, between my early-onset dementia and fiddle-faddeling in fairy-land, this phone-call knocked the air out of me. Like, falling-off-the-playground-monkey-bars kind of losing your breath.

“Hello?”

“Is this Myndi?”

“Yeah.”

“Myndi, it’s Leslie Aton.”

Confused silence on my part as I tried to connect with the name. Leslie Aton. Leslie Aton? Ohhhhh, Leslie Aton. I know this girl. We went to grade school together. Then junior high. Then high school. She was a year older than me and was largely responsible for making my life at school Miserable. That’s right, I said Miserable, with a capital M. You could toss a ‘Les’ in front of the Miserable for fun, but it might be a touch showy. I’m not sure my school experience could fill 800 pages of depressing prose.

Anyway…

My confused silence now stretched into stony silence. I have no idea why Leslie Aton is calling me, twelve or thirteen years after the last time we saw each other. She’d dropped out of my realm of existence when I’d transferred high schools late in my Junior year. I had nothing to say to her – I couldn’t imagine what she’d possibly have to say to me.

As it turned out, it was an apology. A heartfelt, tear-filled apology for things done a decade prior. Things that had followed her through the years, things she needed forgiveness for.

My stony silence stretched into stunned silence. It was such a wholly unexpected conversation that I’m afraid most of it was largely one-sided. She spoke, I listened. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her, or what must have been going through her mind. After all, Confused Silence, Stony Silence, and Stunned Silence all sound the same. Just silence. Or, if you’re listening through a filter (and let’s be honest – we all listen through a filter), she probably heard Angry Silence. Grudging Silence. Hateful Silence.

Eventually I managed to find words enough to tell her that, of course, I’d forgive her. That we were just kids back then, and kids do stupid stuff. God knows I’ve done my fair share of stupid – I could give you a hefty list of people who’d be willing to vouch for it. But I wish I’d have had the presence of mind to say more – to tell her that if we bumped into each other on the street, we’d be cool. That I respected her for doing the unthinkably hard – being humble enough to approach someone she’d wronged, open herself up to a possible tongue lashing, just to say she was sorry for being stupid when she was a kid. We all know how it is when we contemplate doing a thing like that – we play through every scenario we can think of, each uglier than the last. It must have been really difficult to pick up the phone, my number in hand, and dial. I wish I could have told her that her kids (if she has any) are so blessed to have a mom that sets an example of humility and bold honesty – even when it means putting herself in a potentially painful/embarrassing situation. Especially when there were probably a thousand reasons in favor of not making that phone call. A thousand good, solid reasons.

Leslie, I want you to know that I really, really respect you for that.

What about you? How do you feel about apologies that come late? Are you prone to forgive, or do you tend to hold a grudge? Have you been on the receiving end of an unexpected apology and not known what to say? Or have you ever had to dig up courage enough to say that you were wrong, and sorry?

Let’s dish.

(p.s. Leslie Aton isn’t actually the name of the girl. I doubt she reads my blog, but since she and I aren’t in contact, I didn’t want to risk hurting her feelings by revealing her name without her permission.)

 

29 thoughts on “Sorry Doesn’t Spoil

  1. Emma Burcart says:

    That was a very brave thing for her to do, and most people would’ve just moved on. I think it’s pretty cool. I’m one to apologize for things I’ve done that hurt people, but I know plenty of people who won’t ever say the words, “I’m sorry.” I think it is never too late.

  2. gingercalem says:

    Wow, what a phone call! It’s heartening to know that some people do evolve. What is cool is that not only felt truly sorry for what she’d done, she had to come full circle and contact you. She could have thought, “Hey, I’m sorry, I know I’m sorry, I’m good.” But she finished it by reaching out. They do say that forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the forgivee. (I know that’s not a word … go with it.)

    I have learned not to hold a grudge, mostly. I still struggle to let go of those grudges if it’s against someone who has hurt my children. I just … ugh, don’t mess with my babies. 😉

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      I’ve watched people I love hold grudges…and it eats them alive. Not good, at all. And I totally agree – it’s a really cool thing to see a person grow and change. I hate the cynical thought process that says people can’t change…I think when a person says that, it’s usually a cop-out for justifying their own crummy behavior. We can all CHOOSE to change at any given time. Might not be easy – might seem ridiculously hard, in fact, but how we behave is a choice. Therefore, change is always possible.

  3. Pauline Baird Jones says:

    My sister found this great quote somewhere: Holding a grudge is like taking poison and then sitting around waiting for the other person to die.

    That’s a great blog post. Saying sorry AND forgiving are always good things. Thanks for sharing the story.

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    Holding a grudge can be self-harming, though I’m sure many things are difficult to let go. I admire her for making the call. It took guts. But I can also empathize with the awkwardness it must have generated in you. 🙂

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      🙂 It was just so utterly out of the blue! I think about it a lot, though, and hope it gave her the peace she was looking for.

  5. patriciasands says:

    Life is definitely way too short to hold grudges or for behaviour that results in grudges. Your caller’s conscience obviously kicked in big-time and hopefully brought her the peace she was seeking. A little forgiveness can go a long way … love your blog title, Myn.

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Thanks Patricia! I’m so glad she made the call and hope it helped her on her journey.

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Isn’t it awesome? My grandma had one just like it (to match her entirely Harvest Gold kitchen!), but alas, this isn’t mine. I got this pic from the Creative Commons pics that WP suggests in the New Post dash. LOVE that feature. 🙂

  6. Catie Rhodes says:

    What a thought provoking post!

    I know the quote that Pauline Baird Jones shared. Still, I am prone to hold grudges. It’s stupid. It’s a waste of energy. But it is what I do. I have started giving myself mental pep talks about this practice because it *is* poisonous.

    I have to wonder if “Leslie’s” apology was part of a twelve-step program. That’s pretty extraordinary that she actually went to the trouble to contact you. Something pretty big must have happened to her. Sometimes it takes something big and/or horrible to make a change in life.

    Good for you for being able to accept her apology. A while back, I read a blog post by a fellow WANA who called a girl she had mistreated high school with the intent of apologizing. The girl told her FU. LOL

  7. alicamckennajohnson says:

    I am not a very forgiving person. I’m okay if it’s just me you’ve wronged, but if you hurt someone I love even if they forgive I probably wont. Sometimes I think I should try and change that, but I have yet to miss anyone I’ve cast out of my life.
    Of course this also means there are things I’ve done that I still don;t forgive myself for.

  8. Debra Eve says:

    I just had this happen, too, Myndi. Thank goodness it was via Facebook. I hadn’t seen or talked to my tormentor for almost 30 years. As it turns out, she didn’t want to apologize. She’d picked me up on the Interwebs and wanted to congratulate me on my writing success. She also wrote a page on all her successes over the last 30 years, which clearly outranked mine. I wrote back, congratulated her and said it was nice hearing from her. But for two days after, all those memories came flooding back and made me miserable.

    So, some people don’t change, but there’s no reason to let them or the memories ruin everything you’ve built since then. That’s why forgiveness (or at least the attempt, in my case) is the better road.

  9. Jennette Marie Powell says:

    Wow, what a story! I am like Catie – I wonder what happened to her that made her call you? Still, you proved yourself a class act with your response! I too was picked on plenty in school, and hope I would be able to do the same. What’s weird is I recently discovered someone in the blogosphere that I treated badly in college. I’ve thought about emailing him, but that was 25 years ago, and I really don’t think he’d appreciate hearing from me. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Honestly, I’d let go of all that stuff years ago, but even so, hearing from her made an impact. You never know – it might be good for him to hear from you, and talking to him after all these years might be cathartic for you. 🙂

  10. Louise Behiel says:

    Every 12 step program recommends making amends for past wrongs, regardless of when or what or where. It is incredibly healing if you have an addiction or other problem that responds to the 12 steps. good for her.

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      That’s really interesting – before today I’d never given any thought as to why she was calling. *shrug* If it was because of a 12 step program, I really, really hope she was able to reach her goals there.

  11. Kecia Adams says:

    I was just talking to my 14 yr old about a girl who used to torture me in HS. Good thing I had friends to defend me because I was helpless in the face of that sort of targeted malice. But aan apology does go a long way and it helps to forgive even if the apology never comes. Good story!

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Absolutely – I think forgiveness can happen whether or not the offender seeks it. I’d let go of that stuff years before. It still made an impact, though, to hear the words spoken.

  12. Marcy Kennedy says:

    What a brave thing for her to do. I never been on the receiving end, but I have been on the giving end. I usually forget about the wrongs others have done to me pretty quickly, but the stupid things I do haunt me until I can get them off my chest.

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      I tend to be the same way. I tend to carry that stuff around with me, unless I can find a way to say sorry. And even if the person I’ve offended doesn’t accept the apology, it’s still freeing to me to have made strides toward fixing the wrong.

  13. Gina Hepburn says:

    A very similar thing happened to me! About a year after I transferred schools when I was 12 due to bullying, the girl responsible for much of my misery called and apologised to me. I was too shocked to give her much of a response other than ‘thank you’ but even then I was able to see how brave she was to do that. It’s so amazing what a sorry will do, yet it’s often the hardest word to say. Thanks for sharing this story Myndi!

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